[undated letter - January 1972]
On Boxing Day Roy and I were invited to lunch by friends [Sheila Robinson
and her husband George] who had also invited Doris Lessing - she was very
taken by Luke and I was taken with her: fifty two year old smiling woman
who's lived hard and seems to have kept growing fast ever since her adolescence.
I was encouraged to see her face so gentled and unexhausted and pretty,
made me hopeful: because she hasn't stayed young by avoiding pain or thought.
[Here I do not tell the story of how Roy got drunk on the way and lay
down on the sidewalk, had to be fetched in by George and me, and lay sleeping
it off in a back room while we had lunch. I was shy with Lessing but she
admired my purple peasant shirt. She was slender in a black pencil skirt,
flirted with George, and was surprisingly good on bongos.]
Last week I dreamed Roy and I were making love,
and when I looked, I had a long straight penis exactly like his: we were
penetrating each other.
I'll soon have a place, and a garden. I feel a good time is coming. [Chris
and Debbie Day were moving, leaving me their whole flat, an upstairs double
room as well as the basement kitchen and bedroom, and a small garden]
Work: something desperately needing doing, something I'm really interested
in. Something for many hours a day, so wonderful I haven't dared imagine
Twenty four hours in the Children's Ward [Whittington Hospital] - notes
in my mother's handwriting.
In the bathroom, the white tiled walls, each tile is covered with grey
lines fine as hairs, running in patterns that continue from one tile to
the ones around it in swirls, eddies, diagramming - what? Currents of temperature
in the wall? Many of the individual squares are beautiful, fine-line drawings.
I sit staring at them wondering what it can be that they chart so exactly,
following a current from one tile through the white frame of cement [grout]
into the next. It's a map, like a weather-map, with isobars.
The sound of the ward at night, a level buzz, a hum, makes me imagine
the walls stuffed with pipes like veins and arteries full of steam, running
water, electricity, oxygen, telephone tones; it's like the hospital in my
Cathy talking about Simon: "There's one child I can't take to. He
comes into the kitchen and asks for a glass of milk, playing with his privates.
And I can't help it, he makes me think of a dirty old man." "Sleeps
with his mother" says her good-looking Turkish Cypriot Cockney husband.
Marissa: eleven month old princess, she's sleeping pink-soled feet up,
long brown legs, white nightgown open across the back, little regal head
on a flattened pink teddybear, tiny gold earrings, eyelashes tightly curled,
pickanniny tufts on her head. Her eyes aren't black, they're almost silver,
flat water-silver rings around large black pupils. Her mother is like her,
tall, long-necked beautiful girl sitting bored holding her daughter, she's
pregnant in a hard curve stalking above her long soft boots.
William (Michael) seven month old with a round little adult head, propped
up day and night in a baby chair, straining at his straps, screaming to
get out, instantly quiet when we picked him up.
Monkey-face Lisa, bandaged legs and arms with eczema scabs showing dark
through them, scaly head and lined black neck. Her mother sat reading newspapers,
half an hour every afternoon. "The boy's nice looking."
Julie, little Greek with a beautiful bushy haired mother - all these
mothers! Most are so young. But Maria's heavy Italian mother, thick and
stiff with broken veins in her face and frizzy short hair; her husband,
also thick and stiff in his black suit and white shirt, without tie, wider
at the collar than at the top of his head; the two of them, and at least
two other couples almost identical to them (so that it takes me two days
to distinguish her actual parents).
Dr [Ian] MacIntosh. Thin, tumble of hair, large intelligent eyes, rubbery
thin-cheeked smile. "So good with the children."
The first twenty four hours I was on the edge of tears at every moment,
watching the children, listening, sitting beside Luke's bed and then lying
awake when the ward was dark with only a spotlight above the centre table.
Luke's temperature climbed to 103, I jumped up when they took it, every
hour, to see whether it was down. He lay naked with a fan on him, sleeping
uneasily, and I resented the swaggering male nurses, their banging assurance
and Luke's discomfort. Roy didn't know where I was, I felt alone in my fear
for Luke and my adventure with him. Lisa, little William, Maria held limp
in her pink pyjamas surrounded by six Italians arguing with the doctors,
then the pale little boy.
Why's that Dr MacIntosh doing night duty on the wards tonight? Coming
in in an anorak, standing there with his hands in his pockets watching a
figure skater on television, going out, goodnight, and leaving me a long
look down the length of the ward. Earlier when he came in I was embarrassed
to be playing the doctor-worshipping little girl - BUT it's not that, it's
an amazing presence, the way he sat at a child's bed two afternoons ago
returning my curiosity, and the way, when I came in out of the rain this
morning from the Whittington I rushed into his look and then smile, and
felt my hair falling out of its bun down my neck as I passed him. Why does
he bother to see me - there he is again! - what's more charming than that
shy hunger I perhaps imagine? Or maybe it's my shy hunger he finds charming.
Writing this with Roy watching from behind my eyes I realize it's a "fairly
limited" way of talking to myself, yet it comforts me to slowly carefully
retaste and form what's given me pleasure.
The first day here was a pleasure like that, but I had nothing to write
my happy tearful short story with, and now it comes out falsely because
I don't remember it very well. Then every word embarrasses me because it's
false, as many of my contacts in the ward are false and almost unbearable
now. I don't want to go home, I love the arrivals here, the babies crying
and comforted, the bizarre mixings of parents, the easy anarchy in which
our food and clean sheets and orange medicine arrive when we need them and
we do as we like, the babies sleeping diagonally across their beds on their
knees with their plastic pants and their ducks' bums up. Or Del, with her
white net elf's cap tucked under sheets up to her chin.
The creature in the end bed, white pointed head covered with straight
black hair, sleeps all day covered with a white sheet; sometimes, very rarely,
he cries, not a real cry, more like a door creaking slowly open. He's two
and can't sit by himself, hardly moves.
- Rubber pants to bee washed and
- Dried hon pipes when dirty!
- No childs to be left
- Herein bathroom at any times please!
Tuesday night, 1st of March
Funny things happen: for instance, I've always dated you by adding twenty
one to my age; but now I date myself by adding twenty five to his
age. (I thought of you the other day too, when I found myself in the absent-minded
fuddle I used to laugh at you for. A girl on the street stopped me to ask
"Have you got the right time?" and I said "I haven't got
any at all, thank you.")
I go out to houses that are being torn down and dig up plants, bluebells,
daffodils, grape hyacinths, and strange plants that will surprise me when
they grow up. And then I pick through the half-demolished ruins that look
like bomb-sites in movies about the Blitz and find treasures like old rusty
bits of bedspring, pipe, tincan, hinge, which make beautiful sculptures
for our house. Sometimes there are other people who've also crawled through
the hoardings and are dragging away old boards (timber is very 'dear' here),
and we greet each other like children finding marvels in the dump.
I was going to stop after that page and go back to the typing I'm doing
to help pay the electricity bill, but all the lights have gone out and the
candle light is too dim for working but not too dim for writing you. There
are regular power cuts these days because the miners have been on strike
and the power stations haven't any coal. People go without light and heat
for hours every day, but everyone I meet supports the miners. There's a
nice anti-middle-class feeling in this country that seems very British to
me - it's a good country.
I've written almost nothing, because there's nothing here but the all-day
every-day struggle to find new ways, all the failures, collapses into boredom
and mechanism, convention, absences of mind or feeling. And the little flares
of illumination, like the moment when Roy came home from a meeting late
at night and we put our arms around each other and I felt something, or
a flash of something, that was like "Here's my man." All the time
I spend looking at him and rejoicing in his arms and legs and back and chin
and all. All the times we sit and laugh together about Luke, and all the
moments of such intense love for that little body full of feelings.
Luke sits on the green carpet with six blood oranges between his overalled
legs. He throws the oranges to me and wraps his arms around himself in an
ecstasy of self-delight when I catch them, one by one. He sits with his
mouth open watching Roy juggle the oranges very expertly. For that Saturday
morning on the green carpet in my new room we're a loving family. Then we
separate again, but I can't help finding out how dear that triangle is to
me, and eventually I even begin to discover how dear I am to Roy.
At St Alban's Road, when we arrive at Heath Lodge, I stand back and Roy
holds Luke out at waist level, on his stomach like a child learning to swim,
and RUNS all the way up the stairs to flat 7 with Luke out front like a
jet plane, shrieking with excitement.
When Luke comes back from nursery school he greets the front hall with
a little cry. Then we sit on the basket beside the window and he lies back
against me for a moment before he's off. When he's tired and wants to go
to bed he comes and lays his face against my knee.
Can I tell you about my new garden? My very small triangle of earthwormy
London soil full of old glass, bits of brick, splinters of roofing slate,
wood, dog-buried bones, several centuries of rubble and many cycles of care
and neglect: plants there from who-knows how long ago, like the long-armed
rambling rose that's thrown two branches almost across to the brick wall
on the opposite side - high old brick walls with clay rotting a bit and
growing a beautiful patina. A clump of hyacinth (?) I found pushing up very
yellow and feeble under the rubble. Clumps of daffodils with buds. Two big
strong forsythia shrubs with warty diseased lumps among the yellow buds
that will be open by next week. At the back, the apex of the triangle, is
a tall woody mushrooming philadelphus - ie a scented mock orange that will
bloom sometime later, but that now blooms with birds who prefer it to every
other tree in the neighbourhood's back-garden mosaic. (Three streets come
together like this [sketch] and all the back gardens are fitted together
somehow in the space in the middle - a secret space all enclosed in brick
buildings, some of it left to weeds, some articulated inch-by-inch with
sidewalks, flowerbeds, garden gnomes each in its never-to-be-altered place.)
He runs all day: this morning, to show him the use and importance of
his red shoes that he wore today for the first time, I opened the door and
let him run into the garden, run all the way around the corner, and run
back. He's so pretty; his eyes flash! And his seven teeth!
Woman at the Institute - "It's a change in perspective really. Whereas
before you were always looking forward, now you look both ways." The
feeling I had when I walked out with Luke for the first time - he in his
red shoes; and I was a child's mother following after.
My birthday shoes from Roy, red and blue striped soles, cream-colored
uppers with blue binding, red eyes and white laces, Pierre d'Alby written
in a half circle around the ankle bone.
[undated journal, March]
The irritation of chatter, seelish pollution, unlocated remarks about
other people's cars and dinners (Catherine), this and that - Roy and I.
Does it poison him as much as it does me? I think he likes it sometimes,
as I do - but only when I forget what it's like really to leech onto my
moments and magnify them.
Shiny slate roof outside the south window when it rains, reflects new
leaves on the plane tree, light brown brick walls, four storeys, roofed
chimney pots in lines of four, the philadelphus at the end of the garden
full of fat birds hiding in its thicket of fine branches.
They draw me very badly, don't get me at all, make approximate female
bodies - but I feel my bones clearly when I sit there, and nobody draws
them. I'm a good model! That sleek girl drew me with a bush in my hands
like a bunch of radishes. There's a very battered bright girl with a good
strong body, circles under her eyes. Moustache brown eyes smiled to see
me smiling at that gauche bunch of radishes. My little pleasures, and a
fright-thrill reading about the organization of a cell, I'm a colony of
unthinkably precise molecular patterns, and beyond that of atoms, of frequencies,
but nothing nothing random. I depend on Luke to share that with me. Lapse
into angry and very frightened speeches trying to convince Roy to leave
me absolutely alone; I waver with qualifications, and then push myself right.
My Sunday afternoon - I began to write my mother a divorce letter and
realized it's only two years ago I wrote her that I'd found someone who
brought all my pieces together, and that everything was possible. So I went
to the kitchen and sobbed, had to get Luke down too, he was sobbing from
having been left, or bumped, and then he took the bits of cheese I'd cut
to comfort him and put them in my mouth, one after another, and made me
laugh so that I stopped crying and began to scrub out the toilet bowl for
my new clean life. Then Sue came and found my face spottled from crying,
and talked about a good day with Boo, and liked my Bizen tea bowl enough
to take it home.
Saturday morning, 6:15
Luke's playing out his new drama of yes and no. Yogourt on the table,
a coconut cookie, he says s-s-s-s-s-s. (When his grandma comes he stands
looking at her bag saying s-s-s-s, and if she's slow, "ta," "TA!",
"TA!") But 'no' is his real obsession at the moment. I've never
said it to him before a month ago, when I started using a kerosene heater
he's supposed to be afraid of. When he came near touching it I would roar
"NO!" and he'd jump back, look at me, begin to howl. But now he
touches it with one finger and says, looking at me, "No?" "No?"
"No?" Throughout the day I hear him singing it to himself: "no-no-no-no-no."
Monday is the second anniversary of his conception!
Some news - you'll laugh. I've just got another scholarship, $3000 for
next year, to do a PhD on "The film as dream."
At night I'm out with Luke's pushchair to drag home bags of soil and
leafmold from under the hedges of houses being demolished - I told you about
that. Now I've made a bed about 5' square by filling in a corner that had
been concreted over - for a herb bed. Luke and I are so pleased to flow
from the kitchen directly out into the warm yellow shining garden that exists
where a month ago there was a sodden sour place full of old boards and rubble.
What's it about? My repetition of this war between irresponsible vitality
and ceremonious cherishing careful beautiful order.
Yesterday, came to Luke's school early and spied through the crack of
his green door. He was sitting on a chair at a little table with Chrissy
at the end of it, holding a glass of milk in his hands and looking sideways
at his hostess following what she was saying.
I sneaked out to the cemetery, the sun came out when I'd reached a wild
area somewhere in the south middle, where you can see no paths, only flat
grave slabs and markers, and the wild carrot growing up high between them,
with young trees. Stillness, grey sunlight, strange completely alien territory,
birdsong very loud, and that grey yellow light - hot when the sun came out.
I sat carefully down beside an especially nice clump of yellow polyanthus
and had to wait before pinching one because a girl with her boy was sitting
looking at me with such interest. Found some forget-me-nots, in with the
parsley now. Further up, nearer the fence, a strong-scented tulip with the
yellow-green-black centre, stole just one, with a stem like this.
The Heath in the rain this morning radiating new wet green out of each
blade of grass - and this evening, coming slowly across it with Roy's mother,
white silver underbelly along the top of the Heath, furrows of grey misty
clouds moving through that soft uncanny unearthly silver north sky.
Roy thrashing drunk on the floor, even as he twisted theatrically there
was that tight body, that bit of spine and waist, beautiful, under his sweater
pushed up. Because I was laughing at him he said, laughing but sly: "You
didn't know how many times I slept with Rosalynd, did you?" I said
"Of course I did" (I didn't!). He said, "But you always denied
it." "It was you who denied it." And Judd got up and
walked out of the room, he scrambled after; when I went out she was gone
and he was calling after her. [Judd Pratt was Roy's new steady.]
When I confronted him he was humorous and confused casting around for
a charming way out - "It's true, I want everybody to love me."
But when he talked about a television program about drug addiction called
Gale is Dead he got drunken-fierce, "Of course I know it's me
I'm talking about." ("She's dead - she's dead - she's dead.")
He was outside bowing to his mother, hair in soft raining curls, eyes
flat childlike and silly, he looked like Ophelia, his face was so young
and washed clean. Came up the stairs howling. When Tony [his roommate] and
I came out, the door locked behind us. Luke, inside, began to scream, banged
his head against the door. Tony had no key, but sat Roy down and found one
in his pockets, and I pushed in to find Luke sitting in the dark screaming.
I held him to quiet him but his body stayed stiff and he wouldn't stop.
Roy came upstairs. I said "Gently, Luke's frightened" and he came
and put his arms around us both, but Luke screamed, pushed him away, hit
out at him. Tony got down with him and I took Luke downstairs where his
grandma was making him a little milk. When Roy came down, Luke went stiff
and began to scream again. Roy was howling "I've had enough of that
baby," and I escaped downstairs and brought him home to bed. Phonecall
from Roy's mother saying he's vanished. Phonecall from Roy, pretending to
call me but actually looking for Judd. But Luke, at home, went easily to
sleep and I'm reading Sons and Lovers retired back in my bed.
[sometime in April]
Meeting at Savernake Road: a circle of faces shining - flashes of something
loving, ah, you're good and you're bright, you're loyal, hello. That screeching
bodyful of loneliness that I went out with, fed and quiet, with fish and
chips and that roomful of women crying "Goodnight!" after me so
kindly. [First meeting of my local consciousness raising group.]
At Roy's community, everyone milling, the same confusion.
He walks, in those moccasins, like a moonman with a tenth of his weight,
he's all frame.-
The Newsreel films at the Co-op yesterday: the Woman's Film, the Pollution
Film, and the Vietnam veterans, wearing their uniforms with hair, headbands,
berets, their ceremonial colours, each coming to the microphone to say his
name and make his own stylish protest. "The next purple heart I'll
get fighting for the other side," "More shit," "All
power to the people," and that beautiful masculine heave from the shoulder,
purple hearts, bronze crosses, honorable discharges, into a trash box, seemingly
at the Capital. Beautiful, intoxicating moment.
At Roy's community, people turning remarks and posing them between each
other with that particularly tense declared sound. I don't like it, when
I'm there I sound like that too.
On ITV, what was that? Scientists talking - a long-haired man laughing
with delight and excitement in his world - asked by an interviewer whether
it's easier for him to talk to a playwright, say, or another scientist,
replies, eventually, that what's important is that the man have taken his
subject as far as it can go, "he's not dilettante at all, he's on the
frontiers, with mystery all around, mystery and wonder."
The two men walking along a ridge in a woods talking about discoveries,
laughing with simple delight in their conversation.
The train from Gospel Oak - dancing on the platform, pushing Luke in
his pushchair - through mysterious backyard London (I said "I think
about going back on my bicycle and trying to find those places," and
Frances lit up when she said "You never would! You could never find
them again!") Luke and I happy and close (from this sunny morning's
toast and eggs and mushrooms and flirtation, tickles, chases - he's learning
to stare at his foot and say "shoe-oe) - oh, that baby! What a happy
day it has been, coming to 51 Buckingham Road by noon, Dave smiling to let
us in, Frances and Margaret and Roy eating onions at the kitchen table,
my high animation - the children's room and Roy's shapely hug around my
waist - Luke jumping from the kitchen table onto his lap - I felt lapped
in affection - and then on the street, Gary, and the lovely Cockney girls
in their red and yellow clogs and brilliant gear sitting on a step by the
bus stop, and the black kids scruffing home from Sunday school - the train
back, garden patches flashing by and Hampstead Heath, a military band, kites,
sun, grass, grass . Sunday crowds with more Cockney teenagers, clouds running,
Monday drawing class - sitting looking out the window at the chestnut
tree with its towers of flowers - walking the bicycle home to be able to
smell the wallflowers and look at the inky evening sky, I miss the windows
of St Alban's Road so much! I miss Roy to celebrate that towering chestnut
- oh, to see and smell things with - he celebrates all that.
WL meeting at Maeve's, we drink wine and so talk about sex. A new girl,
Sarah; Claire gets brighter and warmer; Leslie wears less makeup and is
letting her husband go to Saskatchewan alone. Maggie hides the crisps behind
my ankle, friendly complicity. We hang around to leave together, and walk
out in some warm relation to each other. We're physically tender with each
other - and that has only begun. Claire's long thighs, Hilary's breadth,
Maggie's white skin. Leslie's hair like a lioness, Sarah's broad battered
alert beauty - and Marilyn said of me, "But - she's so lovely."
Nice the way flat 7 is emptying itself slowly, the rooms becoming more
beautiful as they become light on their colored walls, the green outside
the windows closing them in like a new, other, wall.
[At this point, late May or early June, I take Luke on the train to Estoril
in Portugal where Mafalda is living in her family summerhouse waiting to
have her baby.]
52 Avenida Portugal, Estoril, June 6
Came with Catherine to the station in a taxi, gay to be leaving, Luke
just brought sleepy upstairs and falling asleep again in the taxi, the driver
taking that familiar route to Victoria; arrived to find the boat train cancelled
due to the general strike in France, but was informed we could sleep in
the train on track #2 - found a compartment and got rid of Catherine, who
was making up disasters, waved her pretty self off thru' the window and
turned back to put Luke to bed on the floor, not easy because he was happy
to peer out under the curtain and find trains, banging rattling flashing
as trains came in and went out on the track alongside. I left him with the
bottle and sat on the stoop feeling nicely at home, watching passengers
coming past to the commuter train, lay down eventually, Luke still babbling,
an official came along and took out the light bulbs for me, then I went
down a few compartments and took them out for a sweet looking French woman,
went back and lay wrapped around my sleeping bag, in a nice private space,
the journey really begun - I missed Roy and wanted him to share and celebrate
this adventure, but sore as I was, I remembered how he doesn't delight in
discomfort, and was glad to have Luke to love, and to have the adventure
to myself. Slept through the night, Luke covered with my leather jacket,
until someone burst in early in the morning and I had to bundle everything
onto the platform, Luke too, scooped up and his bottle stuck quickly into
The 5p Ladies where two good souls looked after my packsack, the teddybear
tied onto it, and the blue laundry bag full of disposable nappies while
we went and had a disturbed breakfast, Luke struggling to get out of his
The ten o'clock train, a compartment with Luke and me next to the window,
oh countryside - daisies, a few poppies, clumps of natural forsythia, yellow
buttercups, sun, hops climbing their long strings, oasthouses, sheep, a
beautiful herd of fat brown cows, a white horse deep in a meadow far below
and away, Luke flirting with three American musicians, Rita, Sam, dancing
to the wheels' clatter, singing ch-ch-ch-ch-ch, struggling to climb up the
window, running from door to window and back, digging in Rita's bag for
presents, his smiling dirty prettiest.
The sea! Bands of blue and grey sea, sun and clouds, all sparkling, the
boat, and Luke sleeping on the floor below the window where the sea sparkled
empty to all distance, his first encounter with a seagull big as a chicken
staring down from the railing, he - and I - found and ate a crumbled piece
of fruitcake left on the rail for gulls - I fed him an egg sandwich on the
run - he had a lemonade in his bottle that spit at the back of his throat.
At Calais, pressed into a three-carriage commuter train, six people's
feet, and their luggage, and Luke trying to climb out of it, up the windows,
kicking the virginal fat Englishwoman's knees; the young French girl with
her blazing private eyes looking at his nursery rhyme book with him, and
when we had to change at an obscure station just past Amiens, helping me
with the laundry bag when it began to pour down rain, everyone crowding
down the quai into the subway, and as we stood and waited to get out, feeling
like war victims in a bomb shelter, there was a comical shout from someone
trying to get down the stairs: "Ahley veet seel voo play, il ploo duhhorz"
and a plump raincoated loveable American came down with three wet suitcases.
Paris. Luke in the pushchair, the laundry bag hung over his handlebars,
his blue quilt in a stringbag hung from one of the handlebars too, my Greek
bag full of bottles, empty and for water and for evaporated milk, squashed
hard-boiled eggs, to the Douane to get my packsack - the baggage from Calais
hasn't come - where is it? - in Calais, there's a strike you know - quel
malheur - "I can't help it, if I had it I'd give it to you." A
Hôtesse de Paris calls a convent and the Armée de Salut to
see if they'll shelter me; they won't.
Now Luke's asleep on the floor in a corner of the second class waiting
room, Spaniards, Blacks, Americans sit waiting for trains - I wish I had
my sleeping bag and some of those nuts and dried apricots in my bag.
[We slept on the floor in a little anteroom. When I woke the change purse
with all my French money, that I'd had under my pillow, was gone.]
Kaliel born Saturday June 17 1972.
England, this dark London where living is so difficult, cramped cold
dirty house, my garden full of diseases, the plaster peeling off my walls,
my place shabbier and more shapeless than it was when I left. No space,
no light. I want to paint everything white, simplify, throw out even more
The train went very slowly through those miles of pine trees and eucalyptus
trees, hills, green green rice fields, people cutting their grain by hand.
Luke jumped on and off the seats and left me to sit and look sadly and lovingly
at the country I was leaving too soon.
At the clinic Luke sits on my knee in front of the clinic doctor, small
ironic woman with grey curly hair and glasses, and does the form boards:
a single form with a circle - he puts it in without a pause; single form
with a square - he offers it to her, to me, she insists, he puts it directly
in; the double form with two circles - no trouble; square, circle and triangle
- he puts in the circle, chews on the square, looks around, she insists,
he puts in the square halfway, "Come on, do it properly," she
says, he pushes it all the way in; she points to the triangle, he takes
it and puts it in; I'm sitting enraptured watching him perform, he's disobedient
and casual, but when he moves he's quick and accurate; she rotates the board,
tells him to begin with the circle, he puts it in, he tries to put the square
into the triangle, tries again with the circle, then easily puts it into
the square hole, tries to get the circle back, she forbids him, insists
on the triangle, he puts it in; she says, or cries, "He's not supposed
to do that until he's two and a half!" and I cry "Really?"
But he won't make a tower of three bricks although we both think he could
- he brings me the bricks, chatters, takes the bricks out of her bag, wanders
off, pokes into her supply cupboard. As I leave she says "That's why
he's so bright, you allow him reasonable access to deadly poisons."
Carolee Schneeman in the NFT lobby, tall, shapely, shaped, clothes
not new and a little crumpled but colours exactly right, moving from russet
stockings just over her knees through russet and yellow back to russet in
her hair - not young, but slim, pointed breasts, self conscious mannered
face - down on the floor writing in a book - in the theatre holding a posy
of flowers someone'd given her. When her film had been on for a few minutes
she got up and bolted with what sounded like a sob - when it was over she
scrabbled down the aisle in the dark and gathered up her things and bolted
again. At the end of the program emerged from the toilet to shine in the
lobby, where I hung about overlistening and pretending not to stare.
Escalating potency is how it feels; and then there's The Dialectic
Roy was complaining - thrashed all night - that I'm secretive, don't
share my life and friends with him - I am too, try not to brag, and as for
the rest it bores him - he says I come to him once a week for a fuck like
a prostitute, and that's how I'd like it to be, if it were a good truthful
talk and a good dramatic fuck and a good Turkish dinner like yesterday.
And I'm good too: I listen well, I touch him carefully and I'm as truthful
as I can be and I'm playful.
Asked R for money for Luke, spent £1.37 of it on our WL meeting
for wine. We sat in the garden as it got dark - Luke sat with us for a while,
playing a shy game with hands over his eyes then pelted Hilary with grass.
Hilary, the American girl, Sarah, Angela, Maggie, me: I felt as if we'd
got back to our core, except for Gail and Leslie and Claire: what I feel
is - love. Angela on the doorstep saying "It's nice to see you again"
and I so briskly, stupidly, "It's nice to see you again."
Looking at her in the dark and trying to imagine her touchable, tastable.
When she's there, I think, it's easier for me to say who I am, what I mean.
I've come into a growing season.
Sarah's recurring dream: she goes through a door in a strange building,
or a tree, finds room after room full of things, sometimes people, seems
never ending - she says it's a pleasant dream, and associates with it the
problem of doing things - says she has trouble beginning. Listens intently
to my tale of Carmichael and myself, and what I feel is Olivia's destruction,
and then stands up to leave and crackles with excited indignation at the
nonsense of relationships and wives and abdication, swears loudly in the
stairwell (Mrs Holloway's ears aprickle) and goes off shouting her thank
She has a beautiful old fashioned face, eyes very wide apart, clear grey,
large nose with deep nostrils (like Margaret's and like mine again), small
mouth, giving her the look of a young Rebecca in pigtails or a Victorian
young woman with hair up and a cameo at the throat - very broad face, but
focused to a point by the smallness of her mouth - that wide intelligent
brow and look of steady 'candid' character; and she holds her face high
on her neck, tilts it a little forward at the chin.
Drawing is so subconscious: the way, when I drew Sarah just now, my line
outlining her hair unconsciously covered her ear.
Rosalynd [de Lanerolle] making me welcome, as she does. Her ritual coffee
and an argument with her friend. I feel in touch with her.
Remember Christie's image of a woman sitting just inside the window,
in a pub; the light coming from directly behind her, she's a black form
in profile. She raises her glass and "the amber liquid slipped into
that black form." She moves her arm tipping the remembered glass slowly
up - I can see it emptying into black, slipping in like jelly.
I'm distorted with loneliness.
Driving with Roy, watching him look at women, the long intense look particularly
at dolly birds, sees them far ahead and follows them falling back in his
mirror - frustrates me, what is this idiocy, even in your educated self?
In my educated self, where I still want to be that walking symbol
of false potency, of triviality.
When I see an older woman with liveliness and character in her face I
want to stare in admiration and pride, relief.
WL: again the rising high - talk - myself as a noisy self-confident child
- shouting with Sarah about computers, how we think, pushed - talking about
what sort of bodies we want - Leslie beginning to talk, when asked, about
lack of confidence, her new feeling of being compromised by her clothes
- how we feel when we're working well.
[travel notebook from Trets in the south of France]
The black sky I followed with Daniel in his camion tout neuf. Orlando
lying dressed in monkish bright saffron on his green blanket under knitted
patchwork. Dill in a row, fenouille, eight feet high, scented when crushed,
lizards disappearing over the edge of the roof. Mistral insisting around
the house, in the morning the flock of dirty shorn sheet flows past the
house chuckling like a stream. The white gravel around the house, the cricri's;
a single pine tree full of wind as a forested hilltop.
Eugene uprooting a many-branched dry plant with yellow spiked flowers,
hanging it roots upward from the beam above the manorial table to be a starry-sky
chandelier. Shading the lamp with branches of locust that catch light upwards.
Madeleine in lilac dress, pink and gold scarf, holding Orlando in his
M's melon breast and Orlando's round head fuzzy like a peach.
My last day here. The black bagnolle crouching under châtaigniers.
From the front of the house, dill's yellow flowers - beyond, morning pale
blue, hills, a bank of clouds, like bloom on grape leaves.
Was in Provence, staying with Madeleine and her Irishman and her newborn
little Orlando Furioso schnou-fou, cooking and eating together, drinking
wine after supper and in the shady afternoons, singing with Eugene's jazz
records, being the glowing expert on new babbies and saving them from all
panic and disaster by my wise presence, talking and talking with two people
who are interested in everything.
Beautiful Luke is growing longer legs and now has his father's shapely
slim bum. Busy chatty creature, tells himself long stories in bed, rehearses
his thoughts, words. He's got the idea now that he can make me do things,
takes my hand, pulls me toward the ice-lolly shop saying "Come, come!"
most persuasively; or pushes me off my chair saying "Go off!"
In the morning he wakes me and I look up to see him smiling, pink-cheeked,
at the end of his bed: "Ge' out!" When I let him out and tell
him, hugging my pillow, because it's early, early, "SLEEPING, I'm sleeping"
he giggles mercilessly and struggles to get into my sleeping bag with me,
but oh no not to sleep. To wriggle, neck a little, and then a minute later
stand on top of me to reach something else. So I give up and get him breakfast
and warm some water to wash off his we' (wet) or sometimes his kinky (stinky)
and give him lots of hugs and kisses and we begin the day thus lovingly.
Roy's extravagant, but I'm poor and Luke and I had an adventure yesterday
that involved breaking into an abandoned house and there finding - oh joys!
the sturdy frame (nothing else) of a red toy truck, a little bulldozer,
a jeep, and a sack of wooden building blocks (and for me a teapot) - which
we took home and washed in soapy water, and which Luke thrilled over all
day and into bed. And he makes trains out of the pile of tiles I found in
another abandoned house, laying them very skillfully end to end.
Pride is wrong because it's being for the other, very costly to oneself.
This Sunday, at six, maybe, the chimneys of the terrace across the garden
were pink with the last sun; I took Luke by bicycle to the Heath, we climbed
to the top of Parliament Hill and sat (me on the back, he straddling it
and singing dee-daw) on a bench looking at the sweep of coloured trees toward
Highgate, oh soft brilliant colors like natural dye samples, a high cloud
ceiling; Luke heard shouts in the playground far below in the dark, and
ran dangerously, rolled and tumbled once, down the steep slope; I went back
for my bicycle and came down after him into the darkness; facing us, the
brilliant lights bedded in the dark towers and pink night sky of the City
and the West End, banked up facing us like a mountain range. We came down
into the unlighted space between, Luke running, looking back to see me following,
bumping down, on the bicycle. Ah Luke, I don't want to forget this evening,
October in your second year. You run down fearlessly to find the children
shouting; you call to me, insist, "Cung! Cung!" until I
do come with you, but letting you lead me down, your two legs almost out
of control almost unable to keep up with your chest and chin. Painful, precarious
love getting bigger in me. Sometimes I tease you with tiger kisses and tell
you "I love you so much." Mixture of negligence and scary ardent
love. What will become of us, what will I make of us.
Today I've been like an adolescent catching myself in reflections, thin
dark face, hair down long past my shoulder blades - pleased with myself,
my look of wildness and secrecy, hair lank, green sweater, the look of presence
I need - with it the doubt that anyone I know will love that girl.
WL meeting at Sarah's: Maggie, Leslie, Mary, Sarah and I in laughing
affection feeling each other alive.
Rain heightened colors of almost bare trees, fog on the Heath, smell
of burnt coffee from the lit windows.
Coming home from school with Luke, the white whale of a long Chevy turned
suddenly across my path, and in the rain my brakes didn't hold. We slid
into it sideways and just as we dipped I said "Fucking car!" and
thought "This is it. Luke." Without fear. A second that didn't
exist, then Luke and I on the sidewalk, I reaching for Luke, who was unstrapped,
and crying, holding him, comforting him, a beautiful young boy, long black
hair and blue eyes, dressed in black, kneeling with us holding his arms
out to us, looking scared. Three old ladies and six schoolgirls!
He said "Come and have a cup of tea with us though". (The green
room on College Lane I often look into, wood fire, wood from a hole under
the floor, tube table, huge mirror, jar of cookies, another young man and
a boy.) They make tea and we talk about how it was. Luke is shy at first,
drags my hand and says "Come on!" but when we begin to
repair the bicycle he becomes a little man and gets his hand in. The rotten
tire explodes with a bang - we begin to laugh and his fright goes as he
understands and nervously laughs too.
Some old news.
A new handsome tall stove [a silver Pither] that warms our long upstairs
room where Luke sleeps now, and makes a firelit cave of it when we turn
the lights off. Filling it with coal, taking out ashes, tending the fire,
they all make me feel I'm the mummy-daddy in this house. Luke and I sit,
I on a cushion and he in the armchair made by my legs, looking at his books;
and in the morning he has his bathtub set up in front of it to wash off
the night's pee; delicately boned little smooth body that I so much like
looking at. When he's asleep I, or I and friends, lie in front of it reading
or talking, or necking.